Gianni Pettena fonds
Part of:
  • Gianni Pettena (archive creator)

Gianni Pettena fonds



Level of archival description:
Extent and medium:
  • 232 003 digital files (464.1 GB)
    10 929 photographic materials
    1104 drawings
    2.73 l.m. of textual records
    56 pieces of ephemera
    13 moving images
    3 models
Scope and content:
The Gianni Pettena fonds documents Pettena’s work as an artist, architect, critic, and professor of history of contemporary architecture. It contains material related to his professional activities from the 1960s to the end of the 2010s.

Pettena’s work as an artist and an architect is documented through records from 100 projects from the mid-1960s to 2018. It includes his early and more politically engaged works undertaken in Italy in the second half of the 1960s, projects he realized in the United States from 1971 to 1973, his furniture designs from the 1960s, and his many projects on the influence of nature in architecture. This material is recorded through sketches and drawings for the concept and design development of installations and performances, and photographic documentation and video recordings showing his work. It also contains design development drawings, reference drawings, photographs, correspondence, project proposals, documentation, and contracts for his more architectural projects. The fonds also contains two models.

Also included, are materials related to exhibitions Pettena curated and designed from 1980 to the early 2000s. Records document his exhibitions on the work of other contemporary architects, including architects from the Radical movement, and on landscape architecture and the evolution of urban park designs. The fonds contains research material, correspondence regarding exhibition planning and related publications, and exhibition proposals and promotional materials. Also documented are exhibitions on Pettena’s work curated by other museums and institutions such as the FRAC Lorraine in Metz, and Museo Fondazione Piaggio in Pontedera. This material includes installation photographs and videos, promotional material and correspondence for the planning of the exhibitions.

Pettena’s work as a critic is also represented, through his writing, including his essay “L’anarchitetto” (1973), monographs, and chapters for collaborative publications. The fonds contains material for his writings on contemporary architecture and on experimental architecture. It also contains material related to the creation of his professional website, and publications and articles written on him.

Pettena’s teaching activities are documented through records related to his position as a visiting professor in the United States between 1971 to 1973, and his work as a professor at the University of Florence from 1973 to 2008. This material includes predominantly teaching material, such as an important collection of slides on contemporary architecture and art history, and thesis and project work from his students. Pettena’s academic activities are also documented in the fonds via his interviews, his lectures, and seminars he attended. Materials documenting these activities include photographs of the events, promotional materials, and Pettena’s presentation texts. Finally, the fonds contains a few of Pettena’s notebooks and agendas.
Reference number:


Prior to its transfer to the CCA, the Gianni Pettena fonds was arranged by Pettena’s activities: his work as an artist and an architect, as a curator, as a critic and a writer, and as a professor. This preliminary arrangement was done by Pettena's assistant, Elisabetta Trincherini.

The materials have now been arranged into six series:
AP207.S1: Works
AP207.S2: Exhibitions
AP207.S3: Publications
AP207.S4: Academic work and interviews
AP207.S5: Selected professional papers, photographs and videos
AP207.S6: Notebooks and agendas
Biographical notes:

Gianni Pettena, born Giovanni in 1940, in Bolzano, Italy, graduated from the University of Florence in 1968. He later taught for the University of Florence’s Faculty of Architecture, from 1973-2008, as Associate professor of History of Contemporary Architecture. Along with Ettore Sottsass Jr., the Italian design firm Archizoom Associati, and the architectural firm Superstudio, Pettena is a key figure of the 1960s and 70s radical architecture movement in Italy. The movement’s intention was to carry out a radical reform in architecture by questioning the limitations of the discipline and opening it to more conceptual and artistic approaches without the need for any constructive purpose. “In the 1970s, Pettena drew closer to conceptual art and Land Art. In this period, his concepts are being physically experimented by being confronted to the scale of the body and the natural and urban context.” [1]

In 1971, Pettena was a visiting professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. While there, he and ten students performed several pieces, including the performance “Vestirsi di Sedie/Wearable Chairs.” In 1972, like his work in Minneapolis, Pettena worked with students to create performances as a visiting professor at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. In the same year, he published “L’anarchitetto”, an essay where he confronts the restrictions of the architectural discipline and describes himself as an “anarchitect”. [2]

Many of Pettena’s projects were exhibited at the Milan Triennale (in 1973) and the Venice Biennale (in 1979 and in 1980). In 1996, he was invited to coordinate the exhibitions for the Venice Biennale and was personally in charge of curating the exhibition “Radicals, Architecture and design 1960-1975.” In the mid-1990s, Pettena also developed an interest in landscape architecture and presented the work of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in an exhibition at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 1996. Along with the work of Superstudio, Archizoom, and UFO, his work was presented in the 2003 exhibition “Italie Radicale. Collection du FRAC Centre,” at the FRAC Centre, Orléans.

[1][2] FRAC, Centre-Val de Loire website, http://www.frac-centre.fr/_en/art-and-architecture-collection/rub/rubauthors-316.html?authID=148 (last accessed 19 September 2019).

Trincherini, Elisabetta. “Gianni Pettena” in Radical utopias: Archizoom, Remi Buti, 9999, Gianni Pettena, Superstudio, UFO, Zziggurat, edited by Pino Brugellis, Quodlilet, 2017, 347 pages, p. 186-215.

Gianni Pettena website, https://www.giannipettena.it/english/ (last accessed 10 February 2019).
Conditions governing access:
  • Access by appointment only. Please note that digital material can only be accessed on-site. Please contact Reference at ref@cca.qc.ca for more information.
Conditions governing reproduction:
  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer:
  • Gift of Gianni Pettena on 23 October 2018.
Custodial history:
  • The materials in the Gianni Pettena fonds remained in his custody at his residence until their arrival at the CCA in June 2019.
Archivist's note:
  • The fonds was processed and described in the fall and winter 2019 by Catherine Jacob.
Credit line:
When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:

Gianni Pettena fonds
Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal;
Don de Gianni Pettena/
Gift of Gianni Pettena

When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.
Language of material:
  • English
  • Italian
Related units of description:
  • The Fonds régional d’art contemporain (FRAC) du Centre-Val de Loire in France holds additional materials created by Gianni Pettena, including drawings, photographs, artefacts and a model.

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